Luis Hospital board nominee drops out of consideration


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ST. CROIX - Pastor Dexter Skepple, who had been nominated by Gov. John deJongh Jr. for a seat on the Luis Hospital board, has withdrawn his nomination without explanation.

Skepple's nomination had gone before the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee in December, and the committee voted to forward it with a favorable recommendation to the full Senate for consideration. However, the legislative session scheduled for later that month was cancelled.

On Friday, Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone said he had removed Skepple's nomination from the agenda for today's legislative session as a precaution because he had heard from Rules and Judiciary Committee chairman Sammuel Sanes that Skepple had unofficially withdrawn his nomination - although neither senator had received anything in writing at that point.

Skepple, pastor at Speak the Word Ministries and a pilot, on Monday confirmed he had withdrawn his nomination, but declined to answer further questions, saying he had no comment.

Late Monday afternoon, Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said in a written response to a Daily News inquiry that the governor was expected to formally advise Malone on Monday evening that he is withdrawing Skepple's nomination.

"The withdrawal is being made at Pastor Skepple's request, and no reason was given for his decision," Greaux wrote.

For almost half a year, the Luis Hospital board has been unable to muster a quorum to conduct the hospital's business.

The nine-seat Luis Hospital board currently has only two members - Joyce Heyliger, the nurse representative to the board, and Dr. Anthony Ricketts, the physician representative to the board.

The remaining seven seats are empty.

DeJongh had submitted to the Legislature the nominations of Skepple and Philip Arcidi to the Luis Hospital board on Nov. 8.

Arcidi's nomination also passed through the Rules Committee with a favorable recommendation and is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate today.

However, even if Arcidi's nomination is approved by the 30th Legislature, the Luis Hospital board still would need two more successful nominations to muster a quorum and conduct business.

In his written statement Monday, Greaux said the governor is "finalizing" another nomination now, making sure documentation is in place before it is submitted to the Senate. However, Greaux would not say who that nominee is.

The Luis Hospital board had been operating with only five members for some time before two members resigned in July under political pressure, after Interim Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kendall Griffith resigned. The reinstatement of Griffith was the last act the board took before it lost its quorum.

Board member Wallace Phaire then resigned in December, saying he was no longer comfortable with the way things were being run at the hospital, leaving only Ricketts and Heyliger on the board.

Because Luis Hospital lacks a functioning board, the territorial hospital board periodically has met and heard reports from Griffith and has been acting on a few Luis Hospital matters, starting in late October.

However, the territorial hospital board - with all but two members from St. Thomas or St. John - has not met on St. Croix in years. Its meetings where Luis Hospital has been the focus all have been on St. Thomas.

Greaux said in his statement that the governor still is searching for people who are qualified and interested in serving on the St. Croix hospital board and will be reviewing other potential nominees in the days ahead.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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